What it’s like to be a doula: ‘People think we bang drums, chant or use incense’

“Individuals suppose we bang drums, chant or use incense,” jokes London-based beginning and postnatal doula Leila Baker. “There are doulas who try this however that’s not each doula.”

Baker and I are chatting simply days earlier than the Duchess of Sussex is anticipated to present beginning to her first youngster. Within the lead as much as the royal child’s arrival, it has been extensively reported Ms Markle has employed a doula to be part of her beginning staff.

If the rumours of Ms Markle using a doula to be true, Baker says “it could actually solely be a great factor” for each her occupation and the royal. “It will be beautiful if Meghan Markle did have one as a result of it would hopefully make her have an unbelievable calm and supportive beginning,” she says.


“I hope it would have a massively constructive distinction on the remainder of society. Typically if the royals do it, everybody else desires to do it.”

In response to non-profit affiliation Doula UK, doulas act as beginning coaches, providing sensible and emotional assist in ladies’s personal houses in addition to in hospitals. They’re often skilled ladies who’ve accomplished some primary coaching in birthing apply and accomplished a certification course of.

Traditionally, such a labour assist has be used because the Greeks in historic occasions, with the time period “doula” originating from the Greek phrase for “slave” or “lady of service” and extensively understood to imply somebody who assists a mom with breastfeeding after giving beginning.

In trendy occasions, the occupation has turn out to be widespread internationally with proof exhibiting that having a doula can scale back to danger of caesarean, instrumental beginning or induction and scale back the necessity for painkillers or epidural throughout beginning, in line with Doula UK. They’ve additionally been credited with shortening labour and decreasing incidence of postnatal melancholy (PND).  

As for her determination turn out to be a doula, Baker says she grew to become conscious about the ignorance she needed to handle her expectations through the beginning of her first youngster.

Regardless of planning a home birth, quickly into the labour Baker says she “ended up panicking and requested to be transferred to a hospital”. On account of this expertise, the mother-of-five grew to become a beginning doula in 2016 following the beginning of her fourth youngster and employed a doula for her fifth.

Following her first pregnancy, Baker says she grew to become conscious about the dearth of postnatal assist after giving beginning in hospital and determined to have her subsequent 4 births at dwelling. Baker grew to become a beginning doula in 2016 after the beginning of her fourth youngster and employed a doula for her fifth.

“My husband couldn’t perceive why I needed a doula provided that I’m one, however I defined that we should always all have doulas, no matter what number of occasions we now have kids or our private experiences,” she says.

Baker now works in south London as a doula, skilled Breastfeeding Peer Supporter and a professional therapeutic massage therapist. Over time, she has assisted 40 households.

Describing her function, Baker says she “gives informational, loving, non-judgmental assist and sensible assist” to her purchasers.

“If luggage want carrying, if one thing wants researching, if a again wants rubbing, we’ll be there to supply that assist,” she provides.

Whereas it isn’t a authorized requirement to register with an organisation to make use of a doula, nearly all of households within the UK select to discover a doula via Doula UK which has a listing of near 700 members. 

Baker describes the method of discovering a doula as being “a bit like relationship”.

“You see when you just like the sound of somebody’s profile, you’re searching for a click on – some type of match between you and your doula.”

In consequence, it’s frequent apply for a girl to have a cellphone dialog with a potential doula and meet two or three prematurely to see whether or not they have a great rapport.

“Now we have this phrase ‘it’s not about me’,” Baker says. “It doesn’t matter what I would like or suppose is finest, it solely issues what the consumer feels is finest for his or her household. For me, it’s about ensuring that household has knowledgeable selections in regards to the care they’re receiving.”


Royal child in numbers

Prematurely of labour, Baker will usually conduct two or three periods “to assist a household work out what they need from a beginning and the way finest to realize that”. Forward of the periods, she may even ship them three templates of beginning plans.

“The type of templates are very totally different,” she says. “One is supplied by the NHS, one is designed by a well-known antenatal schooling supplier, and the opposite one is pictorial.

“Dad and mom may not have thought of who they need to minimize the wire, or what they need to do with the placenta till they’re requested the query. A variety of my work is about managing individuals’s expectations as to what’s or isn’t regular.”

Throughout these periods, Baker additionally says it’s essential to present soon-to-be-parents an opportunity to amass a base data of breastfeeding.

In response to research carried out by UNICEF final yr, the UK is amongst nations with the bottom breastfeeding charges on the planet. In the meantime, one in three ladies confessed to feeling embarrassed to take action exterior of their houses, in line with a 2015 survey by Public Well being England’s (PHE’s) parenting recommendation service, Start4Life.

In consequence, Baker stresses the significance of serving to ladies be taught in regards to the course of as quickly as doable right into a being pregnant.

“Breastfeeding is a difficult settling in interval as a result of ladies aren’t all the time full knowledgeable prematurely,” she says.

“Breastfeeding is one thing we’re born to do as mammals however it doesn’t imply it’s simple. As a result of we don’t reside in a society the place it’s as frequent because it may very well be, the place we don’t see it, we don’t know what to anticipate and what’s regular.”

Mom breastfeeding a brand new born child boy in a hospital room (Getty Photographs/iStockphoto)

For her beginning purchasers, Baker says she’s going to usually be on name for 4 weeks – two weeks previous to a child’s beginning and two weeks after.

“We’re on name 24/7,” she says. “It’s a tough profession to base a life round however I’ve a really supportive household – most of us do – and childcare that may step in on the final minute.”

Nevertheless, Baker says the satisfaction of the job far outweighs its calls for. In spite of everything, she is aware of all too properly the lasting influence a doula can have on a beginning, given her personal expertise with using one throughout her being pregnant along with her fifth youngster.

“She made every little thing higher for me,” Baker says of her doula. “She knew precisely what I needed, she knew me, she’d spent many extra hours with me than the midwife within the room who had by no means met me earlier than.”

Which celebrities have used doulas?

A number of high-profile celebrities have revealed they employed a doula earlier than, throughout and after their pregnancies.

A-listers together with singers Idina Menzel, Alanis Morisette, Kelly Rowland and mannequin Doutzen Kroes have spoken brazenly about their use of a doula.


In 2008, actor Nicole Kidman revealed in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that she had employed a doula whereas pregnant along with her first youngster, daughter Sunday Rose, with whom she shares with singer Keith City.


In 2014, actor Mila Kunis opened up about her birthing plan for her first being pregnant with daughter, Wyatt Isabelle Kutcher

Mendacity head-to-head and holding her doula’s hand all through the labour made “each stress and fear go away”, Baker provides.

“She was capable of shield me from every little thing else that was occurring within the room on the time, giving me her undivided consideration,” she notes.

Discussing what occurs throughout a beginning, be it in a hospital or a consumer’s dwelling, the function of a doula is to not converse for the individuals they’re supporting, states Baker.

“Quite, we are able to remind them what it’s that we now have mentioned antenatally and that what the hospital workers is likely to be suggesting could also be a part of routine, relatively than individualised care.”

Whereas doulas provide assist to ladies earlier than, throughout and after beginning, it’s price noting that they don’t provide medical abilities and will not be medically skilled.

From Baker’s expertise, it’s uncommon for doulas and medical workers to return at loggerheads relating to a mom’s care. Nevertheless, she says it may be “disagreeable” when it does happen.

“I keep in mind it occurred as soon as with a midwife and he or she turned her again to me whereas I used to be talking. When she left, the daddy apologised on her behalf.”

As a rule, Baker attributes unfavourable attitudes in the direction of doulas to misconceptions as to what the occupation entails.

“We’re not making an attempt to take over from the midwife, relatively assist the midwife,” she notes. “As soon as they realise that, in the event that they didn’t earlier than, they’re very welcoming.

“Typically there’s a false impression we’re wannabe midwives or that we don’t like midwives and docs. So far as I’m conscious, none of that’s true.”

Whereas doulas have been privately supporting households for hundreds of years, they’re more and more changing into frequent in public sectors.

Final month, New York’s Division of Well being launched a pilot program on to permit Medicaid to assist cowl their companies for low-income pregnant ladies. The information comes after DONA International, the world’s first, largest and main doula certifying organisation based mostly within the US, accredited 37 % extra postpartum practitioners between 2012 and 2017.

But it surely’s not solely within the US the place the recognition of doulas is rising. In 2013, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital announced it had become the first hospital in the country to make use of doulas to assist ladies on its birthing unit.

Nevertheless, their work each out and in of the supply room has lengthy been disputed. In 2009, anaesthetist Dr Abhijoy Chakladar wrote within the British Medical Journal that the presence of doulas throughout labour “could alter the doctor-patient dynamic”.

Dr Chakladar added: “Because the development grows, a cynic would possibly ask whether or not the doula enterprise is definitely obligatory or whether or not it’s exploiting – for revenue – unstated fears about NHS perinatal care.”

Baker expenses purchasers between £1,200 to £1,400 for her beginning doula companies, with non-compulsory extras together with being pregnant and child therapeutic massage. In the meantime, her postnatal work can price £18 to £25 per hour.

Nevertheless, Baker refutes recommendations that doulas are an pointless expense.

“What value are you able to placed on the sensation of being supported via a beginning?” she asks.


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“It’s not that doulas aren’t obligatory, it’s an expense, however sadly the NHS can’t present that.”

It’s a perception beforehand echoed by Louise Silverton, former deputy common secretary of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) who mentioned that doulas are offering a service that midwives ought to have the ability to provide however can’t because of workers shortages.

“The strain of labor signifies that too typically midwives merely wouldn’t have the time to supply the type of emotional assist that doulas are providing.”

On the subject of her job as a doula, Baker says it’s an expertise like no different.

“It’s superb to have the ability to watch individuals turn out to be mother and father – the look a mum or dad’s face the primary time they see their youngster is simply so lovely,” she says. “Not everybody will get to see that – I’m very privileged.”

Discover extra details about doulas on Doula UK and National Childbirth Trust.

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